Scene 1, take 1:
It’s a cold erev Shabbos, a couple of hours before licht bentching. Food is just about cooked, the cholent is prepared, and the kids have bathed. Your feet and back need a hot shower (or bath, if you can manage it). Yes, finally the normal early Shabbos chaos is nearly over. Your spouse is home, and it’s finally your turn to escape into hot water bliss. That hot water feels amazing. You can almost feel the stress fade away as you get the water running.
But wait - why is the water just warm? Ah, I know: There must be too much cold water. I’ll adjust the knob (this has happened before)... Nothing changes, still warm. No time to worry - soap up and get moving… OMG, the water is so cold, there’s shampoo in my hair, and I’m turning into a human popsicle!
You let out a shout: “Guys, you used up all the hot water!”
Then you think, how has this happened? No one was even home today! Could it be that we didn’t pay the gas or electric bill? Panic sets in, your mind races (Shabbos is like in 45 minutes). You wonder: my hot water heater? Is it possible?
You think back. When you bought the house, the previous owner said it was almost a new unit. Oh, but that was 15 years ago, come to think of it. The home inspector had said a hot water heater’s end of life is at 10 years; after that it’s keil malei rachamim time.
The above scenario happens to so many homeowners. The out-of-sight, out of mind homeowner’s mentality isn’t unusual. A hot water heater is an essential and critical appliance (yes, just like a refrigerator) that requires attention. Simple maintenance can avoid issues, as in our erev Shabbos parable. A few simple steps should be followed to avoid replacement of the hot water heater:
Partially drain the hot water heater once a year to avoid rust and contaminants from forming inside the tank;
Keep the general area around the hot water heater free from dust and grime;
Keep an eye out for rust around the hot and cold water pipes going into and out of the hot water heater;
SAFETY NOTE: Keep the temperature on the hot water between 110-115 degrees to avoid getting scalded.
Of course, calling your favorite plumber to assist you is always a great idea. In the long run, this will save you from an expensive repair or replacement and ensure a constant supply of hot water whenever you need it.